The Haute Route Pyrenees (HRP) is a high level route that follows the precipitous waistline between France and Spain in Europe. Originally devised by a french teacher called George Veron, it uses parts of existing Grand Randonee routes 10 and 11, shepherd tracks and off trail sections to stay high on the border ridge. It’s around 500 miles long and includes around 28 miles of ascent. The route takes you from sea level to about 10,000 ft.
I walked the Haute Route Pyrenees in 2011, and with a detour into a Spanish gorge system, we took 2 months from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean sea. Many people do it in around 6 weeks (the hiking season is July-September), but I preferred to include summits on the way, and logistics were made more complex by walking with friends, who joined for different stages on the way. Together with my friends, we raised about £4,000 for 2 charities.
Reasons to Hike the Haute Route Pyrenees (HRP)
- It crosses an incredible variety of terrain, from the baked green hills of the western basque region, through granite, ice and talus, to the fiery red rock of Catalonia and scrubby coastline of the Mediterranean. You may be dog tired, thirsty and hungry, but you will not be bored.
- It is possible to do in sections, especially the 1st, 2nd and 5th stages, if your vacation time is limited.
- Because of the trip can be scaled, to enjoy some of Paris or Barcelona, as well as the mountains.
- However, as a through hike, it is a serious challenge. It is not long compared to many US routes, but resupply is between 5-10 days at a time, and the terrain, especially in the central section, is often off-trail, not way-marked and includes 1 or 2 glacial sections as well as numerous boulder fields. Ascent is usually at least 3000 ft. per day and repays a lightweight approach. Trails are not ‘groomed’ and hikers can enjoy a growing feeling of remote wilderness after a few weeks on route.
- Camping is beautiful, easy and plentiful, often possible near lakes, and not restricted. You may camp where you like along the route, as long as you follow the usual ‘leave no trace’ principles. No permits required.
- Clean water means purification is only necessary occasionally. Tablets will do, filter pumps etc can be left behind.
- No bear canister required. Most apex predators have unfortunately been hunted to extinction, but plenty of deer, marmots, birds of prey and wild flowers.
- A reasonably friendly mountain climate. Usually, long periods of clear weather followed by mountain storms, temperature ranging from approx 30 to 95 F.
- It’s fantastically beautiful, peaceful and mostly unspoiled by development above the treeline. Occasional ski resort and quarrying on the Spanish side, but no plantations and long periods where it is possible to walk alone. The HRP is higher and more difficult, and so much less popular than either the GR10 (France) or GR11 (Spain).
For free information about the Haute Route Pyrenees, including the audio diary of David’s 2009 walk, blogs and videos, suggested gear, and David’s excellent guide book amendements, see http://www.selfpowered.net/p/hrp.html.